After I wrote the last six people twelve times post, I immediately wanted to delete it.
It was incredibly hard for me to write, and also incredibly hard for me to allow others to read how I feel. How I truly, deeply feel about a subject. Especially about a subject as emotionally charged as parenthood. I am scared that when I truly share how I feel, no one will understand, and I will be alone.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a very private person. I am an open book. In person, I have no problem sharing personal anecdotes even with a stranger. I don’t take myself very seriously. I rarely get embarrassed. I have nothing to hide. I operate below the surface, meaning I don’t want to bother with small talk. I want to dig in and talk about THINGS. Too Much Information? Never. Not with me. I want to really know the people that come into my life. I want to be a safe place for them, so that they allow me in. And I am a lot of the time, and they do a lot of the time. I think it is what allows me to take the photographs I take.
A lot of people just feel safe with me.
The problem is, I don’t often give myself the same safety net of myself. I have operated most of my life perpetually worried about how I come across. How others see me. I have obsessed for hours after a party about the things I have said or not said. I have chosen not to walk on a busy street alone, for fear of the eyes on me as I cross a busy intersection, and what they may sum up about me from a split second. I have chosen not to stand up for myself or my children, at times, to different authorities (medical, educational, etc), because I want to believe in them, I want to belong, and because I doubt myself. I have put others over myself and my own opinions and thoughts more times than I can count. I have held back on my opinions on politics, religion, child rearing, family, alternative medicine, organic food, vaccinations, the list goes on. Personal anecdotes are one thing – personal opinions and feelings are something entirely different.
I have always tragically walked the line of being extremely confident in who I am, to doubting every single little thing I have ever thought. I remember going into ninth grade, and after having to wear glasses since the third grade, finally being old enough to try contacts. Back then, kids in glasses were teased or bullied. I was teased and bullied. Mercilessly, almost every day of my school education up to that point. Not just about the glasses, but they certainly didn’t help my situation. When my Mom offered the contact route, I remember saying, “No, I don’t need contacts. I like how I look in glasses. If anyone thinks I look like a dork, I don’t care.” Well, I desperately didn’t want to care, but of course I did. The only way I could gain some control was by saying “I’m choosing to wear these stupid glasses dammit! So screw you if you don’t like it!” The only way I could make myself feel better was to fake that confidence. I fully bought into the adage: Fake It Until You Make It. I just thought someday I would make it!
The tag line I chose for my business, “Just Be You”, is so much more than a tag line. It came to me in the middle of the night, many many years ago. It is a flashlight through the dark into the deepest part of my soul – it is me telling me, “It is okay Tara – just to be. Just be whoever you are. The important people won’t care about the messy bits, the ugly bits, the opinions that differ from theirs – they will love you anyway.” It is my mantra, my meditation, my mission statement. But often, it eludes me.
Here on my blog, I talk specifically about a lot in my life. Like I said, I am an open book. A lot of beautiful personal anecdotes are written here. A lot of talking about the other five people who live in my house. But not a lot of talking about me. About my personal opinions. My personal feelings. Also, here on my blog, I have always limited my focus to one thing: Happiness With A Capital H.
When I started this blog, I was being treated for depression. I started it for two reasons. One was to keep in touch and share photos of my children to our far away family and friends. The other was to help me focus on the good in my life. To try and help me realize I had a reason to live, and exactly what those reasons were. It worked. I started seeing things I hadn’t noticed before. I started writing about things I hadn’t noticed before. I started photographing things I hadn’t noticed before. And many of you reading this now were here, reading then.
It has been five and a half years since I started writing and focusing on all the good in my life. I am no longer being treated for depression. I have fought hard and won that battle. To those of you still in it, my heart goes out to you with deep empathy. My specific depression had a lot to do with the choices I made early in my adult life, and why I made them, and on the slow steady drain of mothering four small children all at once. Three years ago I decided I was done with medication and the side effects. After six plus years on and off anti-depressants, I wanted to see what my new baseline was. I slowly, sickly, painfully weaned off with the help of a chiropractor. She helped my body come off the drugs and she continues to help me stay healthy and balanced. That was enough for awhile, but soon the depression and hopelessness began creeping back in. So, I began going to therapy. And my life changed. She helped me realize the why of my depression. And how to move forward with all of the pain and knowledge that comes along with that.
She also helped me to realize that I am doing myself a disservice by only focusing on the good.
I want and need to focus on the truth of my life.
Meaning, I don’t have to change what I am doing – I just need to round it out with a good dose of reality. I need to be able to look and ponder over the good and the bad. The happy and the sad.
I do not want this blog to be a place where people come and then leave, feeling depressed over my ‘fantastic life’. Possibly thinking that I have no suffering. That I make no mistakes. That I have no bad days. That I don’t fail. That I’m not a jerk sometimes. That I look cute every day. That my family is perfect. I only recently came to realize that this could be the case. And if this sounds familiar to you, let me just say to you: I AM SORRY. I am sorry I haven’t realized that it is equally beneficial to show you both sides of my life.
All of my focusing on the good, the happy, the sunshine moments – what I did to make myself feel better – was actually a fantasy I was clinging to, and I was leading other people to believe was my only reality. The fact is, I do focus on those moments. They are truthful. I have never made anything up. I do tend to “look on the bright side”, “see the silver lining in every cloud”, and “drink from my half full cup”. But when that is all you, my reader, gets to see – you never get the full picture. And when that is all I, the person living it, choose to see, I can’t see my whole life the way it actually is. I can’t make changes or see problems. I can’t help someone like Mckenna. The day after I posted a truth like the one I am currently struggling with in regards to Mckenna, I could see that. You got a bigger picture of my life. *I* got a bigger picture of my life. A more truthful picture. We all have our unique struggles. We aren’t alone. And that was a big exhale.
I have felt a shift occurring within me for some time, of me not wanting to sit on the fence of who I am any longer. I have made a lot of changes since I started this blog. And yet, I have kept what I write here pretty static. Pretty generic. Pretty focused on the good. The Happy With A Capital H. Today I hope to give you a much more full picture of who I actually am, right now.
So – here is where I slap down some truth. I think I do have a pretty fantastic life. The life Jeff and I have made has a lot of good. And I write enough about that, that I don’t need to get specific about it now. But I also have a lot of suffering, I have a lot of bad days, I constantly make mistakes, I am totally a jerk to people sometimes, and a lot of days I don’t even shower or brush my teeth. I forget things often. I have a double chin and large pores. I get really sweaty when I am shooting. (One of the only things that actually does embarrass me about myself.) I am sixty pounds overweight. Mckenna has visually disturbing scars on 20% of her body, caused by catching on fire in 2005, and caring for them, and her, takes a lot of work. Some days I wish my kids would disappear so that my house would stay clean and I could have a break. My house is almost always messy. I don’t really have many local friends. I feel lonely a lot. But I am learning to like that loneliness, and learning what to fill it up with that is good for me. I wish I had paid more attention in all of my History classes, Geography, and Economics, because I am a dolt when it comes to those subjects. I make up for it now by being extremely curious and learning as much as I can about the past, and the history we are making today. I voted for Obama, although I don’t think he is the cure for all of our problems. In person, I curse like a sailor and have quite the naughty sense of humor. I just don’t necessarily feel that the internet is the place for me to express that. I cringe inside when I hear the name George W. Bush. I support gay marriage, and feel that the LGBT person is equal to me in every way. I am not religious. After having been kind of “half-religious” most of my life, (Episcopalian, then Christian, then Mormon), my belief system is best understood by reading this, from the American Humanist Association.
If any of those things surprise you, or make you no longer want to read my blog, I understand. And not in a glasses versus contacts way. I really and truly understand because it means you have the full picture of who I am, and you are free to make a choice. I respect your choice. I would hope that this wouldn’t change how you feel about me. But I understand if it does.
And something I didn’t go into on that last post. I didn’t get specific enough about what I was dealing with. My daughter Mckenna has an undiagnosed neurological disorder that causes her to have major agitation over simple household noise, major issues transitioning from one thing to another, (even something as simple as getting out of the car), and obsessive compulsive tendencies. She is unpredictable in when she will melt down, but melt down she does. And often. In a meltdown she screams, she will try to take off her clothes, she will lay down on the ground. Often in public, right where people have to walk around her. She will stop everything she is doing, like a stubborn horse you can’t get to move an inch. You pull and yank on the reigns and plead and beg and they just dig in their heels. So does she. She will yell curse words. This started in middle school – she doesn’t know when not to curse like the rest of the kids. (Around teachers and parents.) She has zero social or safety awareness. She has no idea people like their space, and will walk up to someone and touch them inappropriately as she says ‘hello’, or ‘hi, dude!’ She has no idea that she could get hit by a car in a parking lot. In 2006 she left our house unannounced twice, and took off on foot. One time before 6am, when everyone else was asleep, the other time when the kids were playing outside and I was upstairs folding laundry and didn’t realize she had left. Both times we were frantic to find her, and were lucky we did. After her second attempt, we purchased a $300 personal GPS system that she had to wear for months. If she got more than 10 feet away from the base, her bracelet would ring an alarm. A lot of the time, her safety is out of my control, and I live in fear of what may happen to her next. She is intellectually disabled with some autistic like symptoms. We don’t know why and we probably never will. It isn’t for a lack of trying. She is fourteen years old and we have taken her to the doctor to try and figure her out countless times.
One of my friends emailed me something that I thought was so poignant, and I want to share what she said here:
“I think what I love most about this post is that it rips away the curtain. This fancy curtain that is put up for everyone to see how perfect and beautiful it is on the outside, but if you push back the curtain you get to see what’s real, what’s raw. You get to see the truth. And guess what…the truth isn’t all that and a bag of chips sometimes. And I think it is in these moments of complete honesty that humans can truly relate to one another. Perfection is an illusion….And the sooner we as parents push back the curtain, the better off we’ll all be. Because there is comfort in knowing that we are not alone in this situation, that people can relate in some fashion.”
I am so ready to rip away the curtain, and in doing so my hope is that I find even more people that I can relate to, as well as that can relate to me.